Girl Scouts and a Gold letter Day for Lakes and Waterways

Girl Scouts and a Gold letter Day for Lakes and Waterways

It’s a story of Leaves

As readers of this blog know, phosphorous in lakes is a major cause of lake degradation.  Can we do anything about it?

Saturday, October 13th, the regional Girl Scout Council of some 26, 334 Girl Scouts said, “YES.”

As leaves drop to the ground in the fall, they carry with them phosphorous extracted from soil during the growing season.  The vast majority of leaves fall to the forest floor to decompose, releasing phosphorous to the soil to be reused the next spring.  Other leaves get raked up, put in bags, and are dropped off at compost sties.  So far, so good.

Unfortunately, many leaves accumulate along street edges where they end up in storm sewer grates carrying their phosphorous into ponds, lakes and streams.  Simply put, such phosphorous ends up degrading our lakes and streams.

But on October 13th past, some 26,334 Girl Scouts from forty nine counties across Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, and 192 volunteer coordinators in 170 communities set out to do something about it.

They cleaned up 101,904 bags of leaves that contained over 20,000 pounds of phosphorous which, had it not been for the Scouts and their coordinators, could have generated over ten million pounds of excessive algae growth.

Other outcomes include:

  • Marked nearly 7,000 storm drains with messages about keeping drains clear of pollutants,
  • Distributed 50,000 educational door hangers,
  • Saved $6 million in environmental clean-up costs,
  • Gave more than 80,000 community service hours.


The initial idea for such a program originated with Friends of the Minnesota Valley and the Freshwater Society several years ago.  Kudos to all concerned!

What have you done lately to protect the water quality of a lake of stream near you?

Darby Nelson

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